TACOMA, Wash. – For the first time in three years, the Puget Sound men's basketball team is headed to the Northwest Conference Final with a 79-62 win on Thursday over Whitman. The Loggers (20-6) never trailed in the semifinal game after scoring the game's first nine points.
Edric Egberaure broke the 0-0 tie with a three-pointer and the Loggers proceeded to go on a 9-0 run to build the early lead. Egberaure finished with 13 points and six rebounds for the Loggers.
The Missionaries (18-8) immediately mounted a comeback, cutting the lead to 18-17 with just over 11 minutes left in the first half. David Michaels, who more than lived up to his recent selection as the NWC Player of the Year, converted on a three-point play to bring the Missionaries with in one. He finished with 28 points before fouling out late in the game.
The Loggers offense was sparked by back-to-back three-pointers from Julian Fernandez and Ryan Rogers to push the lead back to seven. An Anthony Gittens free throw on the next trip capped a 7-0 run that pushed the lead to 25-17.
The Loggers continued the run through the next 10 minutes, outscoring the Missionaries 16-11 over that period to take a 41-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Michaels and the Missionaries refused to go quietly as he capped a 9-0 run in the middle of the second half that once again chopped down the lead into a one possession game. Michaels three-pointer cut the deficit to 49-46 but an 8-0 run from the Loggers pushed the lead back to 10.
The Missionaries were able to keep the lead in single digits over the next four minutes as two Loggers fouled out. However, the Loggers were able to recover and Egberaure's layup with 6:28 remaining put the lead into double digits where it would stay the rest of the way.
The Loggers held the Missionaries to just 26.6 percent shooting while connectin on 48.1 percent of their shot attempts to key the victory.
With the win, head coach Justin Lunt notched the second 20-win season in his six years at the helm.
The second-seeded Loggers will now travel to Spokane, Wash. on Saturday to take on top-seeded Whitworth for the NWC Final, which will tipoff at 7 p.m.